Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is partially waiving solicitor-client privilege with his former attorney general, paving the way for Jody Wilson-Raybould to finally tell some of her side of the SNC-Lavalin saga.
“I am pleased also to confirm that later today the government will confirm that the member for Vancouver-Granville will be able to address relevant matters at the committee, while ensuring that the two active court cases are not jeopardized,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons Monday afternoon.
Wilson-Raybould could now appear at the House of Commons justice committee as early as Wednesday to explain what type of pressure she felt she was under not to pursue a criminal prosecution of the Quebec engineering giant, and allow the firm to negotiate a remediation agreement instead.
The two cases Trudeau referenced are the ongoing criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for allegedly bribing Libyan officials to secure contracts there, and a request by SNC-Lavalin executives that a judge overturn the decision by the director of public prosecutions not to enter into a remediation agreement.
Earlier this month anonymous sources told the Globe and Mail newspaper that Wilson-Raybould had been pressured by Trudeau and his aides to overturn the public prosecutor and proceed to a remediation agreement. Trudeau has said he was always clear that the final decision rested with her, though he acknowledges both he and his aides had several conversations with her throughout the fall to provide her with information to help her make the decision.
Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould have both been awaiting legal advice on the extent of solicitor-client privilege protecting their conversations. She has said more than once that the decision to waive that privilege is not hers to make.
In a letter to the Commons justice committee Monday she said she was “anxious” to appear but wasn’t going to confirm her attendance until she had “clarity” about what she can say.
The committee offered her times on both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, but as of Monday evening, there was no formal notice of her appearance.
She has asked to deliver a 30-minute opening statement before she takes questions from committee members, which is about three times the length most witnesses are granted.
The chances Trudeau gets asked to testify at the committee himself fell from slim to almost none Monday after the Liberals defeated a Tory motion asking the House of Commons to order the prime minister to appear.
Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, said the committee can decide for itself what witnesses to call. Liberal MP Marc Miller noted that over the course of the last week, Trudeau had answered at least 40 questions on the matter in the House of Commons.
Mia Rabson and Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press